Peak 3,651ft P300
Peak 3,517ft P300

Sun, Nov 22, 2020
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I had spent the night camped in a remote part of the Clear Creek Management Area, a few miles from the end of the road along San Joaquin Ridge. I slept poorly despite the quiet location and cool temperatures. I had done a good deal of bushwhacking the previous day, picking up a handful of ticks throughout the day. I brushed them off when found and did an inspection for more when I showered that evening. But one can never be sure that a stowaway didn't escape notice, and every itch felt while trying to sleep needed investigation, even if it was a quick brush of the skin to check for one of the pests. I eventually fell asleep, but would be waken at various times through the night to pee or drink water and these would lead to more checks for the little devils.

Peak 3,651ft

I was up early, warming the inside of the Jeep, breakfasting and changing to hiking clothes, then a few miles of driving along R11 towards the southeast. There was a beautiful sunrise over the haze filling the Central Valley, and by 7a I had reached the end of the road and the start for the Peak 3,651ft. The peak is clearly visible about a mile and a half to the northeast. A connecting ridgeline leads from the parking lot on the main crest to the peak. Its rocky features make it one of the better-looking summits in the region. The topo map and satellite views show an old trail running along the ridge, petering out at the saddle just below the summit. I didn't realize it at the time, but the BLM had extended the driveable portion of R11 since the last time I was here, saving me several additional miles of hiking each way. They've installed a fence that runs along the length of the ridgeline I would follow, though it's not clear why - both sides of the fence are BLM lands. To reach the old trail, primarily used by hunters in season, I followed R11 for about 300yds to the start of the trail shown on the topo map. There is no signage at the junction, and the track through the dry grass is faint to start but soon becoming more pronounced. As I found on the way back, there is now a shortcut one can take starting from the parking lot, simply following another branch of the trail on the east side of the fenceline. The trail is in excellent shape and makes for a delightful walk with views off both sides of the ridge. The early morning light and colors were a nice treat. The fence changes from the left to the right side of the ridge as the trail passes through an open gate as one nears the saddle. As one starts to climb up from the saddle, the trail disappears, leaving one to devise a route of their own choosing to reach the summit.

The slope steepens appreciably as it climbs to the base of some cliffs directly on the ridge. The highpoint is behind this cliff section, though there is another, slightly lower point to the southeast that looks from a distance like it could be the highpoint. I scrambled up through the cliffband, some short class 3 sections encountered, then a last brushy section before reaching the summit rocks 50min after starting out. There was a fallen survey pole with attached wires, but little else among the scattered rocks atop the summit. I'd forgotten to bring a register with me as this surely deserved one. The views stretch out across the eastern side of the Diablo Range and across the Central Valley. It was nice to be out here earlier than I'd managed the previous day. It was cooler and the lighting was much nicer before the midday harshness took over. I took about 45min to make my back down from the summit and along the connecting ridgeline to get me back to the parking lot by 8:45a. I did a quick tick check of my clothing and pack before climbing into the jeep.

Peak 3,517ft

This summit is located about 2.5mi southeast of the first summit, found on the opposite side of San Joaquin Ridge. I drove a few miles west along the road to a junction with an old spur road that follows another ridgeline out to Peak 3,517ft. There is a locked gate right near the start that keeps out vehicle traffic, leaving a hike of about 2.5mi each way. This was the easiest hike of the two days, no brush to deal with, and a very enjoyable walk along the ridge with an excellent trail. The ridge is undulating and involves a 1,000-foot drop to the saddle before climbing up to the peak. Like the previous hike this morning and as well as yesterday's, the starting point was higher than the summit I was after. After the last steep section up to the summit ridge, I found a decent ranch road going across the summit ridge. This road initiates from the south towards Coalinga, part of the adjacent private property. The summit of Peak 3,517ft lies just within the BLM boundary, so there is no trespassing involved. Views here overlook a drier part of the range looking east and south, where low, brown ridgelines descend to Los Gatos Creek and Coalinga. There was a fallen survey pole found atop the summit here, much like the one on Peak 3,651ft. I remembered to grab a register from the Jeep this time, and left it at the summit under a small cairn. The return was a little slower with more elevation gain, and I took my time since I had no reason to hurry. I found a gopher snake sunning itself across the trail, disinclined to move when I paused to examine it. In other instances I would probably pick it up to play with it a bit, but today I was willing to leave it in peace, undisturbed. I was back to the Jeep shortly after 11a and ready to call it a day.

After a brisk jug shower, I started for the long drive back to San Jose. I decided to drive back out through New Idria, thinking it might be shorter than the Clear Creek Rd route, but that was not the case. The road going out that way is in terrible shape and the 26mi of pavement from New Idria to Panoche is poorly maintained and filled with potholes. Still, it made for a scenic drive which I enjoyed all the way back to Hollister. From there, the bustle of urban life takes hold and one is brought back to the business of civilization...

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